Women’s health physiotherapy focuses on the treatment and management of women’s health issues. Women’s health is derived from the clinical area of obstetrics and gynecology. A woman works in different roles: a mother, a daughter, a wife, a homemaker, a wage earner which is physically demanding and mentally taxing for women. Women’s health physiotherapists deal with such issues which are social taboos, which people tend to hide.
This elective of physiotherapy is novel in context of Nepal, while it has been widely practiced and appreciated in other parts of the world. In Nepal, many people seem to be less aware about physiotherapy. In developing countries like Nepal, most women in rural areas go through pregnancy without ever meeting a medical professional. Every year there are 239 known maternal deaths per 100000 live births between 1996 and 2016. The main causes are sepsis, hemorrhage, hypertension, prolonged labor and complication of multiple abortions.
Women’s health physiotherapists from the Western countries worked to ensure better quality of birth and healthy motherhood and started ‘Safe Motherhood Initiative’ in 1987 aiming to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality, to promote and maintain optimal physical and emotional maternal health throughout pregnancy, to detect fetal abnormalities at the earliest, to prepare both parents about pregnancy, labor and baby care, so on.
Women’s health broadly refers to health issues specific to human female anatomy and physiology. Disorders in women often relate to female reproductive organs, breasts and conditions caused by abnormal secretion of female hormones.
There is growing recognition that physiotherapy plays an important role in the management of several women’s health conditions such as incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse and pelvic and/or genital pain, osteoporosis, and lymphedema. A simple assessment and structured exercise program by a physiotherapist is often sufficient to prevent these health issues in women across the life span—from young athletes to the child bearing women to the menopausal age to the elderly.
Women require special health care. In this context, women’s health physiotherapist has a very crucial role to play in different stages of her life—menstrual phase, child bearing phase, menopause and geriatric phase. Menstruation (periods) is the primary change that women endure. Young ladies experience irregular cycles due to lifestyle changes, stress, excessive physical activity, severe loss of weight. For example anorexic females suffer from amenorrhea (irregular period) while marathon runners suffer from hormonal imbalance. However, with proper guidance, reliable and patient specific exercise program, 50 percent of women can overcome the complications, according to a study.
A simple assessment and structured exercise program by a physiotherapist is often sufficient to prevent health complications in women.
Pregnancy is one of the most important experiences for a woman. During each trimester numerous changes occur inside the female body. Major changes include hormonal blast, postural changes and increase in body size. Pregnancy is mostly about newborn care and baby’s health but what about the mother’s health? Health of mother matters, birth matters, recovery matters, the way you feel matters. Healthy motherhood leads to a healthy child, mother’s health matters too. Antenatal exercises, breathing exercises, proper diet and nutrition, emotional support of a partner, family members and proper guidelines about labor can lead to healthy normal delivery and also reduce possible postnatal injuries such as core muscle weakness, pelvic floor muscle injuries, prolapse and incontinence.
During menopause (starting from 45 to 55 years), estrogen and progesterone hormones deplete leading to various symptoms of irritation, feeling of not being loved, hot flushes, vaginal soreness and dryness, urinary incontinence, decrease in libido and osteoporosis.
Women’s health has been neglected. This pattern should now be changed, who will change this? We women should do it for our own sake, for betterment of our health and wellbeing.
This is where the importance of women’s health physiotherapy lies. Women’s health physiotherapists deal with various problems that are not outspoken in the society and community. Even today patients with fecal or urinary incontinence hide themselves as they find it as a social stigma. Women’s health physiotherapists take care of incontinence, organ prolapse, hysterectomy surgeries, pregnancy and back pain, pelvic health and so on. Antenatal natal exercises are designed to improve a couple’s confidence and knowledge regarding healthy motherhood, labor and to know about their new role as parents. This exercise also reduces postnatal complications like pelvic floor injuries and urinary incontinence.
Organ prolapse is one of the major problems occurring in women. It occurs due to pelvic floor muscle weakness. Only few women who have prolapse seek medical help. Guided pelvic floor training can help them in the first and second degree organ prolapse.
The complications cited above ruin quality of life in women. With medical attention, many of such issues can be treated but women do not know where to go for treatment. Let’s join hands to create awareness about women’s health physiotherapy.
Let’s enhance wellbeing, we can do it.
Dr. Bhumika Kayastha has a Master’s in Women’s Health Physiotherapy.